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This genius tool ensures flawless thermal paste application every time

Why it matters: Applying thermal paste is one of those PC building tasks that sounds simple in theory but can be a real pain in practice. You can try to be as careful as possible when spreading that little dollop of goo evenly across the CPU’s heat spreader, but one wrong move and you end up with a mess or uneven coverage. Well, say goodbye to those worries with the genius X-Apply thermal paste applicator.

This “idiot-proof” tool is basically a big stencil that fits right over your CPU socket. Rather than applying paste directly to the CPU, you smear it across the stencil’s surface. The stencil has a precise pattern of holes that allows the perfect amount of paste to pass through onto the heat spreader below in a flawless, even layer. It’s such a simple idea it almost makes you wonder why no one came up with it before.

The brains behind X-Apply are the folks at DigitalBlizzard and renowned tech tester Igor Wallossek from Igor’s Lab. After some collaboration and refinement, they’ve created a product that makes applying thermal paste a total breeze, even for first-time builders.

Wallossek put X-Apply to the test on an Intel Core i9-13900K running at a beefy 200W power level. Comparing its thermal performance to a conventional “sausage” pattern paste application, he found the X-Apply method kept things just a few degrees cooler on average. The average temperatures stood at 73°C with a 77°C peak using the stencil, compared to 75°C and 78°C without. Not a night and day difference, but an important improvement nonetheless, considering the sausage method was previously found to be the best thermal application technique.

More importantly, X-Apply eliminates the potential for uneven or incomplete paste coverage that can happen with manual application. Those bare spots on the heat spreader are a definite no-no for effective heat transfer.

While careful manual application can certainly get the job done for a single build, X-Apply shines for anyone building PCs en masse – whether that’s system builders, enthusiasts frequently swapping CPUs, or overclockers constantly reapplying paste. Instead of painstakingly reapplying paste for the 100th time, just smear, peel, and you’re good to go.

X-Apply films are not commercially available just yet, but they are coming soon in specific versions for the latest AMD AM5 and Intel LGA 1700/1800 sockets, as well as a universal “X-Apply X” that can be custom cut.

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